Coaches Ratzlaff, Knoll: success path is possible

Nineteen years is a long time to be a varsity coach at the collegiate level, or any level, for that matter. Amy Ratzlaff concluded that 19 was enough as the head volleyball coach at Tabor College.

Her record at Tabor was 368-227 overall and a remarkable 266-84 in the KCAC, including eight regular-season conference championships, four post-season conference championships, three “Coach of the Year” honors and two national tournament appearances, including this past year.

No doubt, the recruiting and coaching cycle can be a grind at times. It never ends, really. Mix that in with marriage and family, and it’s a wonder coaches like Ratzlaff excel for as long as they do.

It appears the cupboard won’t be bare for the next coach.

“Our team is at the pinnacle of performance, which makes it hard to step away,” Ratzlaff said in a previous Free Press story. “We have incredible returners who know exactly what needs to happen to return to the national stage, and our recruiting class for 2018, so far, is one of the best that I have had at Tabor.”

Knowing when to step down can be challenging in the best of circumstances, and Ratzlaff is hardly over the hill. It’s nice though when a coach has the ability to dictate when it’s to move on.

The good news for Tabor and its students is that Ratzlaff isn’t leaving, but merely changing roles to full-time teaching.

“It’s not so much that I am ready to be done coaching, because stepping down has been ridiculously hard, but the door to becoming faculty presented itself, and God continued to open the doors,” said Ratzlaff.

“Amy has an outstanding reputation in the classroom,” said Rusty Allen, vice president of enrollment management and intercollegiate athletics. “I am excited for Amy that she gets to move into this new opportunity and very glad that we are keeping her at Tabor College.”

Ratzlaff is a winner in every sense of the word!

* * *

While we’re handing out kudos, I’d like to note that Hillsboro High School boys basketball coach Darrel Knoll is way too young to have reached 500 wins midway through his 30th year of coaching. I’m no math whiz, but Knoll’s teams have won nearly 17 games a season. His success is remarkably consistent, particularly with a regular season of only 20 or so games.

When he won his 500th game this season, his overall record was 500-186. Under his leadership, the Trojans qualified for 12 state tournaments and won three state championships. He has coached his teams to 20-win seasons an amazing 12 times.

Knoll knows he’s had a lot of talented and hard-working student-athletes over the years. No doubt he’s also learned a lot about coaching during his tenure. Still, I doubt he could have known he would be this successful or still coaching in Hillsboro.

In hindsight, it’s hard to believe he almost didn’t get the opportunity to be a head coach, because he wasn’t the school district’s top candidate when he expressed interest in the position back in 1989. But timing is everything, as they say, and in this case, the time was right for Knoll.

It’s not often a community is blessed to have a coach like Knoll lead its high school basketball program for as long as he has led the Trojans.

I can appreciate the fact that he still gets nervous before games, although I suspect he has learned to handle it better over time.

I have no idea what the final number of wins will be for Knoll, but whatever it is, I doubt it will ever be surpassed at Hillsboro High School. He set the bar far too high, and it’s unrealistic to think another coach could be that successful for that long.

Knoll was, and still is, a perfect fit.

Here’s hoping he continues to coach at HHS for years to come!

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.

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